The crater groaned and hissed with great columns of steam, a window into the early days of the planet, and the ground turned into a many-hued moonscape above the treeline. Volcanoes stretched in an unbroken arc towards the snow peaks of Kamchatka. We walked on, into a pure white, mineral land, ecstatic with wonder. A cold fog enveloped us, and condensed on the down of our ears as if on desert flowers at dawn. The last roads of Japan lay ahead. We swam in the waist-high bamboo grass, sang songs to alert the bears, shivered in the cold rain.